Climate Change / Emergency Preparedness / Disaster Mitigation

Climate Change / Emergency Preparedness / Disaster Mitigation

Climate change has the potential to adversely impact all First Nations communities, but those in the North will be the most likely to feel the effects of climate change before any other communities. First Nations communities experienced the effects of climate change with last year’s forest fires. The length of the forest fire season was prolonged, as well as the intensity of the fires. Climate change may also exacerbate seasonal flooding.

Throughout the past decade, Saskatchewan has witnessed more frequent than normal numbers of extreme climate events that have forced communities, municipalities, urban centers and the provincial government to assess emergency services management.

Emergency management for Saskatchewan First Nations has never been more prevalent or necessary than it is today. The ability of First Nation communities to effectively prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, plow winds, out-of-control wildfires, or any disaster is critical to the communities’ long and short term sustainability.

The ability of a community to respond to disasters is directly proportional to their level of emergency preparedness. Ensuring that First Nations ‘at risk’ have the necessary resources required cannot be understated and therefore poses many questions about who is responsible for what, inside and outside the community.

In Saskatchewan, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) regional officials work closely with ‘at risk’ communities to determine their needs, develop work plans, ensure that emergency plans are in place and fund emergency preparedness measures. According to an INAC official, approximately 73% of Saskatchewan First Nations have emergency plans in place.

It is imperative to be proactive when it comes to emergency preparedness and to deal with the impacts of climate change.

To strengthen emergency management on reserves, on November 2013, the federal government announced a new comprehensive single-window approach to emergency financial arrangements with improved access to emergency funds for First Nations and provinces. The new approach includes over $19 million annually to negotiate new or renewed formal agreements with provinces and territories and to support emergency preparedness activities.

On June 4, 2015, all First Nations and Tribal Councils received a letter of notice from Anna Fontaine, INAC Regional Director General, Saskatchewan Region, outlining INAC’s general mandate to support and fund programs through the Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP).

The Federal Budget released on March 22, 2016 promised $8.4 billion over five years as an investment in Indigenous issues. This included $2.24 Billion over five years on Green infrastructure to help the health and safety of First Nations communities. Of that $2.24 Billion, starting in 2016/17 two hundred and fifty five million ($255 million) over two years is to be used for a First Nations infrastructure program to support things like: roads, bridges, energy systems, broadband, fire protection and physical infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters.

The Lands and Resources Secretariat will seek to build capacity within First Nations and First Nation organizations, to put in place emergency preparedness measures, so First Nations can mitigate the impacts of natural disasters.